Of the people, for the people, by the journalists

Jim Cameron looks at Cranbrook's first newspapermen in Janus: Then and Now

The first of three Herald offices and one of the very first buildings in Cranbrook.

The first of three Herald offices and one of the very first buildings in Cranbrook.

Jim Cameron

Volume 1, Number 1, the first issue of the Cranbrook Herald newspaper, was published on March 22, 1898. Considering all that has occurred in the ensuing 115 years, that first paper to roll of the press marked a historic moment in Cranbrook’s history.

F.E. Simpson, Herald publisher, editor and, no doubt, chief bottle-washer, may have paused briefly to appreciate the moment but it is unlikely his mind was concerned with history. He was most likely concerned with selling enough papers to publish the second issue of the newspaper one week later. (The Herald continued with only minor interruptions for another 27 years.)

The initial issue boasted, “The Cranbrook Herald has a guaranteed weekly circulation of 1,000 copies. As an advertising medium, therefore, it is at the head of the list. Write for rates.”

Write for rates, indeed. The twenty or thirty people living in town at the time would merely have had to cross the empty lots to the newly erected Herald building and ask Editor Simpson exactly what his rates were.

The remaining 1,000 copies were either mailed to pre-subscribers (highly unlikely), distributed to all and sundry throughout the district (possibly), or didn’t come anywhere near the 1,000 mark (likely).

Still, it looked good in print and was meant to attract the eye of any and all possible settlers reading from afar. Editor Simpson knew how to spin the spin: encouraging, enticing, bold, even brazen by today’s standards, not necessarily entirely factual but not exactly fiction either.

Much of it was mere speculation of course, as there was little happening in Cranbrook at the time that might be called news, but in the hands of an experienced newspaperman, even the mundane glitters and shines.

As far as local history goes, if all the newspapers published in Cranbrook over the last 115 years suddenly disappeared, it would leave a huge gap in our local history.

There are many other resources, of course – letters, books, memoirs, museum holdings, oral histories and so on – but the thing about the newspapers is they were always there, providing the news on a day-to-day basis.

Accurate? Perhaps best to double-check the facts. Useful? Certainly. Entertaining? Indeed. The newspapers reflected the opinions and social mores of their writers and were openly, nay, blatantly, biased in terms of politics, religion, race and pretty much any other subject one cares to name.

Still, the common factor among all the editors of the day was a steadfast belief in the certainty of Cranbrook’s success, a commitment to the town and its people.

“If a man should traverse all of East Kootenay from the north to the south and from the east to the west, in search of the best natural location for townsite, a place to which there could be no possible objection, one in fact that would be ideal in every way, he could find just one, and only one,” declared the first editorial published. “There are others that have many attractive features, but none that combine every good feature that is considered requisite for a satisfactory townsite, except that on which Cranbrook is located.

“The first impression one receives as he emerges from the wooded country on either side, is that nature had intended this spot for the building of a great city. A level prairie of 360 acres, undulating enough to give ample drainage for sanitary purposes, traversed by three clear mountain streams, with a yield of 700 inches of the best of water, and having two magnificent, never freezing springs, sending forth a volume of water large enough to supply thousands, with a beautiful grove in the centre, and a forest of great pines, monarchs of the mountains, skirting the edges, and thus you a have a hasty picture of the grandest site nature ever created for the homes of a large populace and seat of thriving industries.”

The editorial carries on unstintingly, Cranbrook as an agricultural, mining, residential, business and economic Utopia. In short, Cranbrook as the geographical centre of pretty well everything.

It was effusive, enticing, full of promise and somewhere within range of the truth at the time.

Editor Frederick. E. Simpson (generally referred to as “The Old Man,” although he was 35 years old at the time) continued to boost Cranbrook and its people for the duration of his tenure.

The noted editors of the day – Mr. Simpson of the Cranbrook Herald, A.B. Grace of the Fort Steele and Cranbrook Prospector, F.J. Smyth and L.P. Sullivan of the Cranbrook Courier to name a few – all had plenty to say and their own literary vehicle with which to say it.

They stood on soapboxes of a size that put politicians to shame and decried their opinions on all and sundry and while doing so placed Cranbrook foremost in the minds of the readers and, with any luck, sold newspapers.

It was a symbiotic relationship, the newspaper sold the town and the town bought the newspaper, often on credit, leaving the newspapermen scrabbling to put together the next issue, a task in which they rarely failed.

The legacy of the men and women of the Fourth Estate lays hidden in drawers, placed ever-so-carefully in scrapbooks, framed on walls and stored in dusty closets.

The papers may be old and frail, the writers long gone, but they wrote of the deeds and the deeds live on.

Next Week: Hot Off the Press

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read